Whilst most US national sports leagues appear to have their heads buried firmly in the sand when it comes to recognising the public appeal of online gambling and sports betting outside the restrictive Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, one executive stands out as a realist….Adam Silver of the National Basketball Association.
Silver is known for his outspoken view that the US evolution of online gambling is inevitable, and that the prospect of a wider availability of sports betting is not necessarily a bad thing, and he reiterated his opinion this week in a wide-ranging televised interview with Howard Beck of Bleacher Report.
Among the highlights are Silvers’ statement that if sports betting outside the PASPA is legalised, he would like to see the NBA actively involved in any regulatory development and structuring.
“I do think sports betting on a widespread, legalized basis in the United States is inevitable, in part because states like New Jersey are pushing hard to generate additional revenue. In the same way that lotteries have expanded to virtually every state now, I think sports betting will follow,” Silver said.
“My view is that if that is inevitable, then we need to participate in the regulatory framework that will be designed around our game. Ultimately, we have the responsibility for the integrity of the game, to ensure the competition is pure, to ensure that no one around the NBA family is in any way influenced by gamblers.
“We of course do all those things now. But frankly, because the industry is not transparent, we can’t do as good a job, I believe, as we could if it were all highly regulated.”
Summing up his perspective, Silver observed that he saw wider access to sports betting not as a threat, but as a business opportunity with positive spin-offs like sponsorship..
“Sports betting, if done in an appropriate regulatory environment, is not necessarily an evil,” he noted.
“In fact, there are already a lot of fans placing prop bets on offshore sites from inside NBA arenas.”
Turning to online betting, Silver acknowledged that there was wide demand for better access to sports betting, and that betting online and from mobile devices is increasingly the trend.
“I think with the way the world is going you’re going see people betting on tablets and phones,” he said. “And incidentally, I happen to see that all the time at games now. Again, those sites are out there. I’m not even qualified in terms of their ultimate legality, but there’s a lot of them out there right now. I see fans all the time – when I sit in the stands at games – looking at their phones and tablets, and you can see what they’re doing. They’re placing bets throughout the game.”
“It’ll be fascinating to see how long it takes before online sports betting is completely above ground.”